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Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 10:08

NZ quake: Trapped Chinese tourists evacuated

By Xinhua
NZ quake: Trapped Chinese tourists evacuated
In this image provided by the Royal New Zealand Defense Force, tourists are evacuated by helicopter from Kaikoura following Monday's earthquake, in New Zealand, Nov 15, 2016. (Royal New Zealand Defense Force via AP)

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – About 125 Chinese tourists, who were trapped in a tourist resort after a strong quake in New Zealand , have been safely evacuated to Christchurch by helicopters.

The 7.5 magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks struck the country's South Island after midnight on Monday, killing two people.

A magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck the country's South Island after midnight on Monday, killing two people

More than 1,300 tourists, including the Chinese, were confirmed stranded in Kaikoura, a popular tourist destination famed for its coastal scenery and whale-watching activities.

Most of the evacuated Chinese tourists will continue their tour in New Zealand. Some of them already hit the road southward on Tuesday to areas unaffected by the strongest quake in five years.

Roads to Kaikoura, on the northeast coast of the South Island, remained blocked by landslides, with airlifting the only way out.

The Chinese Consulate-General in Christchurch was told early Monday morning about the stranding of Chinese tourists in Kaikoura. Two helicopters were arranged to evacuate 41 Chinese tourists in the day.

On Tuesday, five helicopters were used to evacuate the rest tourists and altogether 18 flights were arranged for the rescue.

Li Wei and her Italian husband were among the last batch of the evacuees.

"The Chinese government is the only foreign government that has organized evacuation, which has been quite a relief for us," Li said.

Deputy Consul-General Li Xin is grateful of the support from the locals for the rescue.

"A big challenge is to find Chinese tourists in a very short time," Li said after searching many streets to look for his fellow countrymen.

"Any Chinese tourists who are still in Kaikoura can contact the consulate, and we will do our best to take them out of here," he said.

The New Zealand government on Tuesday arranged air force helicopters and navy vessels to rescue the stranded tourists remaining in Kaikoura for fear that the situation might exacerbate for shortage of food and water.

NZ quake: Trapped Chinese tourists evacuated
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, center, and acting Civil Defense Minister Gerry Brownlee, right, fly over Kaikoura, New Zealand, to inspect the damage following a powerful earthquake Nov 14, 2016. (Katie Bradford/Pool Photo via AP)

Four air force helicopters carried relief supplies. Carrier-based helicopters from the United States and Malaysia, which were in New Zealand to attend Navy commemorative activities, will assist the rescue mission.

New Zealand has reported 900 aftershocks so far, with most tremors above magnitude-5. A tsunami warning was cancelled late Monday afternoon.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key told a news conference on Tuesday that the country was confident to properly handle the aftermath.

Focus will be put on infrastructure reconstruction. It will probably take months to repair the coastal highways. To repair a mountainous road leading to Kaikoura tops the reconstruction agenda.

New Zealand is frequently rattled by earthquakes, most of which do no damage and cause no injuries, but Monday's tremor brought back memories of the 6.3 magnitude quake that killed 185 people in Christchurch in February 2011.

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